FAQs

Landscape Lighting

Using a timer and photocell to control your lights gives users the most flexibility by allowing the photocell to turn on the lights in the dark and then turning them off at a certain time at night. For example, the timer could be set to come on at 4:00 pm.  Since it is still light outside, the photocell would not let the lights turn on.  As soon as it gets dark, the photocell allows the lights to turn on.  The timer then could be set to turn the lights off at a certain time that night.  

Multi-volt or multi-tap lighting transformers allow for multiple voltage outputs to compensate for voltage drop going out to the light fixtures.  It is essential that halogen landscape light bulbs operate between 10.8 to 12 volts AC.  Multi-volt landscape lighting transformers allow users to choose between various voltage taps to ensure the proper voltage is supplied to the bulb.  Longer wire runs or higher wattage runs will require the use of higher voltage taps.

Landscape lighting fixtures come with 25’ leads so that they may be wired using the “hub method”.  This wiring method allows installers to group lights together and connects the 25’ leads at a central point or “hub” to a wire coming from the transformer.  By grouping lights that are close together, installers can ensure proper voltage distribution to each light.  If lights are closer than 25’ away from the connection point or “hub”, the excess wire should not be cut but rather wrapped around the bottom of the fixture.

Our landscape lighting transformers can be mounted indoors or outdoors.  Refer to local electrical codes when determining exact transformer location.

Multiple transformers should be used on large properties where the location of the landscape lights are far apart or there will be a large number of lights used to light the property. If the lights are located too far from the transformer, it may not be feasible to run a larger gauge wire to the lights to compensate for the voltage drop. These types of situations will require the use of multiple transformers to ensure the proper voltage can be delivered to the landscape lights.

Wattage is determined by what is being illuminated. Path lights require lower wattage because the area illuminated is small, whereas large trees, shrubs, and wall washing require higher wattage because of large areas or longer distances being lit.  Many times underwater fixtures are of higher wattages because of refraction and density of water.

Wattage is determined by what is being illuminated.  Path lights require lower wattage because the area illuminated is small, whereas large trees, shrubs, and wall washing require higher wattage because of large areas or longer distances being lit.  Many times underwater fixtures are of higher wattages because of refraction and density of water.

The power supply should be a dedicated 20 amp breaker.

There are three basic types of fixtures used for landscape lighting including path or area lights, well lights, and directional lights.  Area and path lights are used to light areas such as walkways, paths, and landscape beds.  Area and path lights come mounted on a post usually anywhere from 15-21” tall and produce a pool of light generally around 8-10’ wide close to the ground.  

Well lights are mounted in the ground and are used to uplight trees, buildings, and large plant material. This fixture is very versatile and is the primary fixture of choice for uplighting and providing an accent to the landscape. Well lights spread light evenly across plant material and buildings making it ideal for uplighting.  

Directional lights also known as bullet lights can be used for up or downlighting.  These fixtures produce a concentrated beam of targeted light for illuminating focal points in the landscape.

Transformers are available in 300, 600, 900, 1200, and 1500 watts.  The size transformer you need will depend on the number of lights, the wattage of lights, and length of wire run to the lights.  Note that transformer sizing is not as simple as adding together the wattage of all the lights on a system to determine the correct transformer size.  The length of wire runs will also factor into what size you will need since the resistance in the wire acts as additional wattage or “load”.  To best determine the correct transformer size, use the Low Voltage Landscape Lighting Calculator.  Once you enter the wire distance, wire size, and wattage for each run, the calculator will determine the transformer size for you.

Tools needed to install a low-voltage landscape lighting system include a screwdriver, drill, drill bits, wire strippers, voltmeter, amp meter, electrical tape, and shovel.

The wire is sized according to the total wattage and length of run associated with that leg of the lighting system.

The voltage difference can range from 9 volts to 15volts+/-.

  •  #12 wire – 192 watts or 16 amps
  • #10 wire – 288 watts or 24 amps
  •  #8 wire – 300 watts or 25 amps

The furthest wire run you will be able to make from the transformer to your landscape light will depend on a variety of factors including wire size, length of run, the wattage of lights, and voltage tap options available on the transformer.  Use the Low Voltage Landscape Lighting Calculator to determine maximum wire run lengths.

The most versatile fixture for this task is the well light. Well, lights offer a wide degree of light that spreads evenly across the canopy of the tree. This type of lighting highlights the entire canopy instead of having a tight beam spread that is more focused or directed such as spotlights or bullet lights.  Another advantage of well lights is that the fixture is not visible in the landscape. On large trees, multiple good lights may need to be used to light the entire canopy.

The “hub method” for wiring low-voltage landscape lights has several advantages over traditional wiring methods such as “daisy-chaining” since it allows installers a greater ability to balance the voltage to each light. The “hub method” also requires fewer wire connections which helps to eliminate possible wiring problems.  Halogen bulbs used for low-voltage landscape lighting must receive between 10.8-12 volts AC from the transformer in order to burn properly and not decrease the life expectancy of the bulb.  The “hub method” of wiring can ensure that the proper voltage is supplied to each fixture. See the diagram below for the difference between the two wiring methods. 

A transformer is an electrical device that changes voltage from one level to another. The typical household voltage is 120 volts.  Most low-voltage landscape lights operate on 12 volts. Due to the lower voltage (12 volts), low voltage landscape lighting wire can be routed under mulch.  Multi-tap landscape lighting transformers convert 120 volts to a range of voltages, generally between 12 – 22 volts. Our Low Voltage Lighting Calculator can help you determine the size transformer you need and which tap to use.

A transformer is an electrical device that changes voltage from one level to another. The typical household voltage is 120 volts.  Most low-voltage landscape lights operate on 12 volts.  Due to the lower voltage (12 volts), low voltage landscape lighting wire can be routed under mulch.   Multi-tap landscape lighting transformers convert 120 volts to a range of voltages, generally between 12 – 22 volts.  Our Low Voltage Lighting Calculator can help you determine the size transformer you need and which tap to use.

Photocells are available with 25’ wiring harnesses that allow users to locate the transformer indoors while mounting the photocell outside. 

The most versatile fixture for this task is the well light.  Well lights offer a wide degree of light that spreads evenly across the facade of the house.  This type of lighting highlights the entire exterior ensuring that the features of the home are displayed properly.  Another advantage of well lights is that the fixture is not visible in the landscape.

The Kelvin rating refers to the color value assigned to the bulb. The color of an LED that has not been corrected is normally a bluish color or has a high Kelvin value. A cool white LED approximates the color of a typical halogen lamp so the Kelvin value is lower. An LED with a yellowish cast has an even lower Kelvin value. An example of a Kelvin rating will look like this. ( 5500K)

Breaker tripping can be caused by a number of factors due to excessive amp draw.  Breakers are designed to protect the transformer from wiring problems going to the landscape lights.  Primary causes of breaker tripping include poor wiring connections, improper wire sizing, too many lights on a run, and wrong transformer tap. 

The main advantage of LED is their low power consumption.  Because LED lights are able to produce more light at lower wattage than traditional bulbs, the transformer can then be down-sized which reduces material costs.  The number of lights per hub increases which may reduce installation time.

LED refers to a “light-emitting diode”.  Almost any fixture can be retrofitted with an LED light.  However, some LED fixtures on the market come as self-contained units which must be discarded once the LED burns out.

1. Use an amp clamp to check the amp draw on the primary side of the transformer.  Do this with the test loop of wire connected to the transformer.  The amp draw should be equal to the total wattage of the fixtures divided by 120.
300 watts = 2.5 amps
600 watts = 5.0 amps
900 watts = 7.5 amps
1200 watts = 10 amps
1500 watts = 12.5 amps

2. Check the individual wire runs from the transformer to the landscape lights. The amp draw should be equal to the total wattage on the run divided by 12.

3. Check the voltage on each individual “hub” to ensure the proper voltage is being supplied to each group of lights. The reading at the hub should be between 11.5-12.5 VAC. This will ensure that each lamp in a group of lights will be supplied with 11-12 VAC since there is approximately 0.5VAC loss in the 25’ lead going to each fixture.

It is normal for landscape lights to feel warm. If the fixture is too hot to touch, it may be pulling too many amps. Fixtures that are hot may have too high of wattage bulbs or faulty wire connections. 

Yes. The higher quality bulbs have better quality drivers and use special lenses built into the LED to correct for the kelvin rating. The less expensive LEDs make use of a coating to do the same thing but the kelvin rating increases as the coating wears off.  The driver may not be as durable which may lead to early bulb failure.

Each voltage tap will handle a load of 600 watts.

Each common tap will handle a load of 300 watts.

Transformers are available in a wide range of wattage (VA) ratings, so we need to ask the question “What size transformer do I need to run my low voltage landscape lighting system?”  This is very easy to determine, all we need to do is answer a few simple questions.  First, how will my lights be grouped together?  The answer to this question determines where the hub will be located.  Second, what is the total wattage of this group of lights?  This is determined by taking the wattage of each individual fixture and adding them together.  Third, how far is the hub located from the location where the transformer will be installed?  This needs to be measured along the route that the wire will actually be installed.  Once you have the answers to these three questions you can plug this information into our Low Voltage Lighting Calculator.  This calculator will help you determine not only the transformer required, but will also help you determine the correct wire size and the correct transformer tap to use as well.

The maximum number of lights you can connect to a hub is five due to the size of the brass lug wire connectors.  We recommend for planning purposes to only use four in case you need to add an additional light in the future.  Just because you can connect up to five fixtures to a hub, doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to run that many.  Use the Low Voltage Lighting Calculator to verify each wire run to make sure the transformer can supply the necessary voltage and to verify wire size. 

The maximum number of lights you can connect to a hub is five due to the size of the brass lug wire connectors.  We recommend for planning purposes to only use four in case you need to add an additional light in the future.  Just because you can connect up to five fixtures to a hub, doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to run that many.  Use the Low Voltage Lighting Calculator to verify each wire run to make sure the transformer can supply the necessary voltage and to verify wire size. 

As a rule of thumb the conversions go like this:
2.4 watt LED = 18-watt halogen
3.8 watt LED = 35-watt halogen
5-8 watt LED = 50-60 watt halogen

There are two control options for controlling the low-voltage landscape lighting transformer. A photocell can be added to the transformer to turn the lights on in the dark and then turn them off the following morning. The other option that can be added to the transformer to control the lights is a timer. The timer can be set to turn the lights on and off at certain times. Both options are “plug and play” and easily connect to the transformer.

Most of the time low voltage wire is installed beneath mulch in landscape areas.  If installing wire underground, the minimum depth, according to the national electric code is 6″.  It is always a good idea to run cable through the conduit when installing it under sidewalks, driveways or other hardscapes.

The transformer does not come with a photocell or timer, although they can easily be added. Both the photo cell and timer are “plug and play”. The transformer can be controlled by either a photocell or timer or both.

A 12 volt (low-voltage) 35-watt halogen bulb commonly used in landscape lighting requires the same amount of electricity to power it as does a 120 volts (line-voltage) 35-watt incandescent bulb found in your house. In this example, 35 watts is still 35 watts. The main difference between the two is that the halogen bulb will produce more lumens or brightness than the traditional incandescent bulb, therefore making it more efficient.

Yes. Low voltage landscape lighting bulbs produce heat. Exercise caution when handling bulbs when the lights are on.

Yes, you can. You just need to do some planning to make sure you use the proper size transformer and wire. There is an easy-to-use lighting wire size calculator located here. This calculator will not only help you size the proper wire and transformer, but it will also tell you the proper tap to use for each hub. There is also a low-voltage landscape lighting installation manual available at any of our branch locations.

Yes. All the fixtures we carry can be retro-fitted with LED or can be purchased as a unit with replaceable LED’S. However, some fixtures may require extra care when being installed. For instance, a well light that is open to the elements and buried in the ground must be installed in a sump of fine gravel to promote rapid drainage because the bulb is only water-resistant.

Irrigation

For a detailed explanation, click here. Briefly, a common or neutral wire is run from the controller attached to the common terminal and is spliced into one of the two leads of each valve solenoid. A hot wire is then run from each of the remaining zone terminals to the remaining lead on each solenoid.

Click here to see a diagram on how to wire a pump start relay.

To provide a short and concise answer that will alleviate any doubt in the readers’ minds and promote a more stress-free life and sense of well-being, the answer is…yes.

For a detailed explanation, click here. Briefly, a common or neutral wire is run from the controller attached to the common terminal and is spliced into one of the two leads of each valve solenoid. A hot wire is then run from each of the remaining zone terminals to the remaining lead on each solenoid.

If you want to test valve solenoids, grab an ohmmeter and follow the instructions found here.

Several things could be happening. If the pump produces more water than the tank is sized for, cycling will occur. The tank should be sized for one gallon of drawdown for each gallon per minute of water pumped. The pressure switch may be adjusted incorrectly. There should always be a 20 psi differential between the cut-on and cut-off pressure and the pressure on the tank should be 2psi below the cut-on pressure.

Several things could be happening.  If the pump produces more water than the tank is sized for, cycling will occur.  The tank should be sized for one gallon of drawdown for each gallon per minute of water pumped.  The pressure switch may be adjusted incorrectly.  There should always be a 20 psi differential between the cut-on and cut-off pressure and  the pressure on the tank should be 2psi below the cut-on pressure.

A multi-stage pump utilizes more than one impeller in the pumping chamber.  These pumps are used to lift water on properties with elevations in excess of 25’.  All submersible well pumps are multi-stage pumps.

1.  Leaking suction line.
2.  Stuffing box packing worn or water seal plugged allowing leakage of air into pump casing.
3.  Air pocket in the suction line.
4.  Not enough suction head for hot water or volatile liquids.
5.  Air or gases in liquid.
6.  Suction lift too high.
7.  Grass or trash sticking to strainer then floating off.

1.  Speed too high.
2.  Head lower than rating, pumps too much water.
3.  Wrong direction of rotation.
4.  Mechanical defects:
          a)  Shaft bent.
          b)  Rotating element binds.
          c)  Stuffing box too tight.
          d)  Wear rings worn.
          e)  Bearings worn.
          f)  Casing packing defective.
          g)  Pump and drive unit misaligned.

1.  Priming-casing and suction pipe not completely filled with liquid.
2.  Speed too low.
3.  Discharge head higher than anticipated.  Check friction loss in piping.
4.  Suction lift too high. The suction pipe may be too small or long, causing excessive friction loss.
5.  Impeller partially plugged.
6.  Intake strainer or suction pipe partially plugged.
7.  Wrong rotation direction.
8.  Air pocket in the suction line.
9.  Air leaks in the suction line and/or stuffing box (shaft seal).
10.  Foot valve too small.
11.  Suction not immersed deep enough.
12.  Mechanical defects:
               a)  Wear rings worn.
               b)  Impeller damaged.
               c)  Packing of shaft seal damaged.

1.  Speed too low.
2.  Air in water.
3.  Wrong impeller diameter.
4.  Mechanical defects:
        a)  Wear rings worn.
        b)  Impeller damaged.
        c)  Packing of shaft seal damaged.
5.  Wrong direction of rotation.
6.  Pressure gauge in the wrong location.
7.  Pressure gauge off calibration, broken or stuck.

1.  Hydraulic noise- cavitation, suction lift too high. Check with vacuum gauge.
2.  Mechanical defects:
          a)  Shaft bent.
          b)  Rotating element binds.
          c)  Bearings are worn.
          d)  Pump and drive unit misaligned.

It depends on the pump performance. A high head pump which dead heads at 65psi+ will require one. Deadhead refers to the pump working against itself with no water leaving the pump.

  • Packing worn or not properly lubricated.
  • Packing incorrectly inserted or not properly run-in.
  • Packing not the right kind for liquid handled.
  • Shaft scored.

There is no difference in pump performance with either voltage. There are advantages of using the higher voltage since the pump will not pull as many amps when using 230VAC. Lower amperage may also allow you to use a smaller wire size to supply power to the pump.

Click here for a troubleshooting checklist for centrifugal pumps.

Yes. Click here for a typical pump setup diagram.

Yes. Click here for the pump sizing calculator.

That’s only part of what you do.  If you can not find the same model pump, you’ll have to cross-reference the old pump performance with that of the performance of the new pump. In some cases, a new pump of lower horsepower will replace an old pump of higher horsepower due to increases in efficiency.

Actually, the pump produces the pressure and can only be adjusted with a separate pressure regulator.  The bladder tank coupled with a pressure switch serves only to turn the pump on or off and/or to regulate pump cycle times.

Click here to see a diagram on how to wire a pump start relay.

  • Priming-casing and suction pipe not completely filled with liquid.
  • Speed too low.
  • Discharge head too high.
  • Suction lift too high.  Suction pipe may be too small or long, causing  excessive friction loss.
  • Impeller completely plugged.
  • Intake strainer or suction pipe completely plugged.
  • Wrong rotation direction.
  • Air pocket in suction line.
  • Air leaks in suction line and/or stuffing box (shaft seal).

The difference between a 2-wire and 3-wire pump is based on the type of motor that is used. A 3-wire single phase motor requires a control box with a starting capacitor. Because of this starting arrangement, the motor requires three “hot” leads (plus a lead for the ground connection) to operate correctly. It is called a “3-wire” due to the three “hot” leads, though there are actually four wires when you count the ground wire. The 2-wire motor requires no control box because is does not use a starting capacitor. Instead, a 2-wire motor has a built-in electrical device that is used to get the motor started. This only requires the pump to have two “hot” leads (plus ground), which is why it is called a “2-wire” pump. The confusion sets in when counting the total number of wires as a 2-wire pump actually has three wires and a 3-wire pump has four wires.

If the pump is not in a protected area with supplemental heat then you will have to drain the pump.

Yes! The casing of the pump should at least be filled with water to keep the shaft seal cool while the pump finishes filling the suction line.

Prior to operation, with the tank, empty of water, the pressure should be 2psi below the cut-on pressure. So, for example, with a 30-50 pressure switch (factory default setting), air pressure in the tank will equal 28psi. If the pressure switch is adjusted to 40-60, the cut-on pressure will be 38psi. Furthermore, always set the pressure switch to reflect a 20psi differential between cut-on and cut-off. If the pump cycles too quickly causing the pump to cut on and off, setting the pressure switch to a higher on/off setting should slow down the cycling. Remember to adjust the air pressure in the tank to reflect the new cut-on pressure. Warning! Most non-commercial tanks have a pressure rating of 100psi!

To provide a short and concise answer that will alleviate any doubt in the readers’ minds and promote a more stress-free life and sense of well-being, the answer is … yes.

If you have run times for various zones entered into multiple programs (ex. A, B, or C), the irrigation controller will run those zones for the amount of time entered.  Some controllers may have a slide switch that allows you to select a program to view and make changes to.  These types of controllers will run the various programs regardless of the switch position.  Other types of controllers will allow you to choose a program that is displayed on the LCD screen.  You can view and make changes to the various programs (ex. A, B, or C) by scrolling through them on the controller’s screen.  The controller will run all programs that have zone run times entered in them regardless of which program is being displayed on the screen.

Multiple start times are useful for several reasons.  Multiple start times are used for new plant establishment where frequent irrigation cycles are needed.  Multiple start times can also be used for areas that have slopes or heavy soil that have poor infiltration.  By using multiple start times, users can run shorter cycles to allow the water to soak in without running off. 

The battery provides backup power to prevent the loss of time and programs in the event of a power failure.  The battery will not operate the controller.

The continuous blowing of fuses may be caused by a shorted irrigation valve (especially if this always happens on a particular zone), shorted field wiring, mismatched controller and pump start relay, or a dysfunctional controller.

Controllers used outdoors have internal transformers and controllers that are installed indoors have external transformers. 

Most irrigation controllers have multiple programs that will allow users to set up different watering schedules for zones that water different types of plants.  For example, you may want to water grass zones three times per week, while watering shrub zones twice per week.  You could enter run times for the grass zones into Program “A” that runs three times a week and enter run times for the shrub zones into Program “B” that runs twice a week.

Owner’s manuals for irrigation controllers sold by W. P. Law, Inc. can be found here.

Click here for the Irrigation Troubleshooting Flow Chart.

The zone run time refers to the amount of time an individual irrigation zone runs.  Ex. If a station or zone #1 is set to water for 30 minutes, the zone run time is 30 minutes.

Newer irrigation controllers are equipped with a sensor terminal that allows you to wire in a rain or freeze sensor.  These types of sensors will not allow the irrigation to run during rain or freeze events.  Most irrigation controllers that have sensor terminals are also equipped with a sensor bypass switch that cuts the sensor on and off.

The standard output voltage for most irrigation controllers is 24 VAC (+/- 3 volts). 

Outdoor irrigation controllers have an internal transformer, weatherproof cabinet, are hard-wired, and have a locking cabinet. The indoor controller has an external plug-in transformer, a non weatherproof cabinet and usually does not have a lock.

Some controllers have a “VT” wire terminal that stands for “valve test”.  This wire terminal remains “hot” with 24VAC power on it.  It is used to test solenoid valves without having to wire them in the field.  If you put one lead of the valve on the “VT” terminal and the other lead on the “COM” terminal, you can test to see if the valve’s solenoid is working correctly.

The “MV” is used to operate either a pump start relay or a valve which turns the water on in the irrigation main.

The “COM” or common terminal is where the common wire attaches for the irrigation valves. To see a wiring diagram click here.

Memory that is not lost when the power is interrupted.

Evapotranspiration is the combined water loss from evaporation and plant transpiration. Evaporation is the vaporization of liquid water from the droplets on the leaves or soil. Transpiration is water lost from within the plant (similar to humans sweating). The combined losses from evaporation and transpiration take away from “available water” for the plant.  Evapotranspiration is commonly referred to as ET.

Some irrigation controllers are equipped with a valve delay.  The valve delay time can be programmed so there is a time delay between valves.  This is is helpful for irrigation systems running off low-yielding wells that need time to recharge between zones.  Programming a valve delay can also help irrigation systems with slow closing valves.  By programming a delay, it allows an irrigation valve to fully close before opening the next valve.  This prevents both valves from staying open.

A modular irrigation controller is simply a controller whose zone capacity can be expanded with the addition of a zone module.  The module may have anywhere from 2,3,4,8 or 12 zones depending on the type of controller.

Smart controllers differ from traditional irrigation controllers in that they do not rely on a timed schedule to run irrigation zones.  Instead, they utilize weather sensors and/or soil moisture sensors to receive daily information on how much water has been lost in your landscaping.  The information is compiled by the controller and daily adjustments to watering times are made allowing for more precise irrigation.

Ideally, every day would be great! However, as this is most impractical, an adjustment should be made at least 4 times per year.  This is easily accomplished by using the water budget or seasonal adjust input found on most controllers.  Starting with the default setting of 100%, one may toggle up or down from this number to increase or decrease the overall run times.  Or simply install a smart controller with a weather station and let it do this automatically based on weather conditions. 

“Stacking” run times refer to when two programs have overlapping run times and the first program has not finished before the second program begins.  The irrigation controller will allow the first program to finish running and then delay the start of the second program and allow it to run in its entirety. 

You can add a device called a Doubler.  The Doubler switches between the existing valve and a new one.  The Doubler makes use of the existing common and hot wires, so an extra hot wire doesn’t need be run.

The alarm light is caused by a fault in the system.  If you want to diagnose the problem, grab an ohmmeter, follow the instructions found here. Then go to our troubleshooting chart here, to diagnose and repair the problem.

Cyclic–  Allows users to water at certain daily intervals.  For example, you could water a zone every 3rd day,4th day, 5th day, etc.

Odd/Even – Allows users to water on either odd or even calendar days

Custom –   Allows users to choose exactly which days of the week they would like to water.  For example, users could choose to water on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Yes. However, to allow the valve to operate by battery, the standard valve solenoid must be replaced with a “latching” DC solenoid.

Ideally, every day would be great! However, as this is most impractical, an adjustment should be made at least 4 times per year.  This is easily accomplished by using the water budget or seasonal adjustment input found on most controllers.  Starting with the default setting of 100%, one may toggle up or down from this number to increase or decrease the overall run times.  Or simply install a smart controller with a weather station and let it do this automatically based on weather conditions. 

Generally speaking, the application of 1 to 1-1/2” of water per week is ok.  This figure is based loosely on historical evapotranspiration (ET) data for the hottest driest part of the summer.  A zone of rotor heads should run 3-4 hours per week to accomplish this.  Spray or mister zones may require 45-60 minutes per week.  Adjust the amount of water needed in a week into zone run times that match your soil type to prevent runoff or to prevent water from percolating to quickly. For instance, clay soils may need shorter run times but multiple start times during the day to allow water to soak in.  Sandy soils “perk” very quickly so the same idea will apply. Drip irrigation zones are programmed similarly but the run time will be in hours instead of minutes.

For a detailed explanation, click here. Briefly, a common or neutral wire is run from the controller attached to the common terminal and is spliced into one of the two leads of each valve solenoid.  A hot wire is then run from each of the remaining zone terminals to the remaining lead on each solenoid.

Wiring a rain or freeze sensor to an irrigation controller can be accomplished in several ways. The newer controllers have sensor terminals built into the unit.  Find the terminals and install the sensor wires.  Older units may not have a sensor port so install the leads of the sensor in line with the common wire.

Click here to see a diagram on how to wire a pump start relay.

The simplest way to explain this in detail is to go here.

If you want to test valve solenoids, grab an ohmmeter and follow the instructions found here.

The easiest way to learn how to program your irrigation controller is to refer to the owner manual. If you are unable to find the owner’s manual for your controller here, consult the manufacturer’s website.

Install a rain sensor. Wiring a rain or freeze sensor to an irrigation controller can be accomplished in several ways. The newer controllers have sensor terminals built into the unit.  Find the terminals and install the sensor wires.  Older units may not have a sensor port so install the leads of the sensor in line with the common wire.

A common mistake many users make when programming their irrigation controller is trying to program a start time and stop time for each zone.  There is no need to program a stop time for each zone.  When programming the controller, enter the run time for each zone into a program and set the start for that program.  The controller will automatically start the next zone once the run time has expired for the previous zone.  If no time is enter for a specific zone, the controller will skip over it and water the next zone that has a programmed run time.  For example:  On program “A” you want zones 1,2, and 4 to water for 30 minutes each starting a 6:00 am in the morning.  Set the start time for program “A” for 6:00 am and enter 30 minutes of run time for zones 1,2, and 4.  The controller will start zone 1 at 6:00 am.  At 6:30 am it will automatically start zone 2.  At 7:00 am it will automatically start zone 4.

Some controllers with a D (drip) program can run concurrently with another program.  This is helpful when irrigating using a pump and bladder tank.  Running the drip by itself will cause the pump to cycle on and off which shortens the motor’s life.  However, operating a drip zone with rotor zones will prevent cycling of the pump.  The caveat, make sure the rotor zones are not designed to the maximum discharge of the pump.

Pumps & Controls

There is no difference in pump performance with either voltage.  There are advantages of using the higher voltage since the pump will not pull as many amps when using 230VAC.  Lower amperage may also allow you to use a smaller wire size to supply power to the pump.

Click here to see a diagram on how to wire a pump start relay.

The difference between a 2-wire and 3-wire pump is based on the type of motor that is used. A 3-wire single-phase motor requires a control box with a starting capacitor. Because of this starting arrangement, the motor requires three “hot” leads (plus a lead for the ground connection) to operate correctly. It is called a “3-wire” due to the three “hot” leads, though there are actually four wires when you count the ground wire. The 2-wire motor requires no control box because is does not use a starting capacitor. Instead, a 2-wire motor has a built-in electrical device that is used to get the motor started. This only requires the pump to have two “hot” leads (plus ground), which is why it is called a “2-wire” pump. The confusion sets in when counting the total number of wires as a 2-wire pump actually has three wires and a 3-wire pump has four wires.

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